As the biography of Washington is the story of the Revolution, so the life of Col. Zebulon Butler is the History of Wyoming. Almost every letter of our annals bears the impress of his name, and is a record of his deeds. A liberal and natural curiosity would lead to the desire to learn something of the early life of a man so distinguished –for he was in full manhood when he made his first appearance on the waters of the Susquehanna. A native of Lyme, New London County, Zebulon Butler was born in 1731. From the neat hand-writing and business style of John Butler, his father, it may be inferred that the education of the parent had not been neglected. It would seem probable that both parents came from England. A bill of exchange drawn in favour of Jacob Hurd, on Mr. Samuel Storke, for 80 pounds sterling, in February 1746, would show business transactions of some importance abroad. Another paper leads to the conclusion that the sum was part of a legacy to Mr. John Butler's wife, of several hundred pounds.
On the breaking out of what is usually called “the Old French War," Zebulon Butler entered the military service of his country, bearing the commission of ensign, in one of the Provincial companies, raised by Connecticut for the crown. On the northern frontier, particularly at Ticonderoga and Crown Point, his ambition was soon gratified, by entering upon a field of stirring and honourable action. So early as 1761, he had attained the rank of captain, and the following year sailed with his company on the memorable expedition to the Havana. In the perils, the glory and the acquisitions of the capture of that important place, Captain Butler shared. Whether his future companions in arms, Captains Durkee and Ransom, served as subordinates in these early campaigns, is not certainly known, but is rendered probable from the fact that both were officers in the Old French War, and the three were in the Wyoming conflicts, early associated in friendship and action together. Peace was concluded with France, and in 1763, the Provincial troops were disbanded. The emigration of Captain Butler to Wyoming in 1769 and subsequent events, in which he bore a part up to the Revolutionary War, have been fully narrated. Soon after the contest with Great Britain commenced, Captain Butler received the appointment of lieutenant colonel of a regiment in the Connecticut line of the army, and in September, 1778, he "was appointed full colonel to the late Charles Webb's regiment, against the will of Lieutenant Colonel Sherman, who intended to have had the regiment."
After being withdrawn from Wyoming, Colonel Butler served with honour to the close of the contest, and when the army was disbanded, returned to his residence in Wilkesbarre, where he passed the remainder of his life, the prudent but steady supporter of the rights of the settlers, looking confidently to the justice of Pennsylvania to settle the existing controversy by an equitable compromise. Such was the estimation in which he was held that in 1787, on the establishment of Luzerne he received from the Supreme Executive Council the honourable appointment of lieutenant of the county, which he held until the office was abrogated by the new constitution of 1790.
On the 28th of July, 1795, aged 64 years, this gallant soldier and estimable citizen resigned his breath to God who gave it, and his remains were interred in the graveyard in Wilkesbarre.
The distinguishing traits of Colonel Butler's character were activity, energy, a high sense of honour, a courage moral and professional, that, when duty called, knew no fear.
S97: History of Wyoming, In a Series of Letters from Charles Miner to His Son William Penn Miner, Esq., Philadelphia, 1845. Copy of an Appendix on Zebulon Butler furnished by Hal Buckingham, June 2007.
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